This morning I opened my e-mail and enjoyed a heaping ladle of ice- cold rejection for breakfast. Welcome to my Monday morning. As you know I applied to SXSW along with 4,499 other people. I was not selected, which means if you want to split hairs, I was categorically rejected. I promptly posted on FB that I had not been chosen despite all the votes and lovely comments that were posted by all you fabulous people. I didn’t ignore the news or hope that everyone would forget that I applied. Instead, I announced my rejected status to the masses.
I think that rejection and failure is so loaded with shame and embarrassment that it keeps people from trying; because if you don’t’ try you can’t get rejected. For me rejection proves that we’ve shown up and put ourselves out into the world. All of the things I’ve pursued in life are veritable bastions of rejection: sales, writing, and acting are all professions that school you in tolerating rejection. You can’t survive if you aren’t resilient. Unquestionably, in all of the things I do the opportunity for rejection is infinitely higher than acceptance. I can’t tell you that rejection never stings. Of course it does. We want to be noticed, valued, and revered and rejection seems to tell us we aren’t good enough. And maybe we aren’t good enough this time or maybe we just aren’t ready or aren’t right.
I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve encountered who write for years and never submit. I tell them all the same thing, “Getting better will not protect you from rejection.” The greatest writers in the world have been rejected over and over and over again.
To be rejected is to get your heart broken. It’s true. We have all witnessed an Olympic athlete break down in tears the moment he realizes that he has lost any chance to medal. Fours years of rising before the sun, eating only what he was told and dedicating his mind and body to this one singular goal vanishes in a millisecond. There is something exquisitely human and universal about rejection. No matter how brilliant, beautiful, and talented you are, someone somewhere for some reason will not choose you at some point and time.
As someone who helps attorneys prepare for partnership, entrepreneurs build businesses and sales people close their first deal, I can tell you that you can greatly mitigate rejection through preparation but you cannot avoid it altogether. And that’s okay, because the scars of rejection are really beautiful badges of honor and evidence that you played hard, that you didn’t pull back, and that you jumped in with your whole being.
If you aren’t getting rejected it only means that you aren’t playing and what’s the fun in that? Get dirty, get your ass kicked, and then get back in the game, because after all that’s where all of the action and possibility resides.